Great Jubilee News
VATICAN CITY, JAN 14, 2000 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 18, John Paul II will open the Holy Door of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls and preside at an ecumenical celebration, together with representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities.

In a press conference on the opening of the Holy Door, held at midday today in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray stated that the week between January 18 and 25 will be, above all, a week of prayer. "In Rome, as elsewhere, this will be the most significant
ecumenical event of the Holy Year. For the first time in jubilee history, the Pope himself will open ... the Holy Door of St. Paul's Outside the Walls; and he will do so in the presence of a large delegation from other Churches."

Representatives from the following Churches, communions and Christian organizations are
scheduled to attend the ceremony:
 Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (2);
Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (1); Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (3);
Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1); Patriarchate of Moscow (1); Patriarchate of
Serbia (3); Orthodox Patriarchate of Romania (1);
 Greek Orthodox Church (1);
 Polish Orthodox Church (1); 
Albanian Orthodox Church (2);
 Finnish Orthodox Church (1);
Coptic-Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (1); Syrian-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (1);
Apostolic Church of Armenia (1); 
Catholicosate of Cilicia of the Armenians, Antelias, Lebanon (1); 
Assyrian Church of the East (1);
 Anglican Communion (led by Archbishop George Carey
of Canterbury, president of the communion, accompanied by four others); 
Old Catholic Church - Union of Utrecht (2);
 World Lutheran Federation (3); 
World Methodist Council (1); 
Disciples of Christ (2);
Pentecostal Church (1) 
and the World Council of Churches (3).

Between January 18 and 24, ecumenical celebrations will be held in various churches in Rome.
At 5.30 p.m. on January 25, in the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray will preside at the celebration of vespers, thus concluding the week of prayer for Christian unity.

According to the Jubilee calendar, two other ecumenical celebrations are scheduled to take place in Rome in the course of the year: On May 7 at the Colosseum, a commemoration for witnesses to the faith in the 20th century will be held; while on Saturday, August 5, in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, there will be a prayer vigil in response to a call from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.

Bishop Piero Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies of the Supreme Pontiff, explained the significance of the ceremony of January 18 and the order of events.

"With the opening of the Holy Door and the ecumenical prayer celebration at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls on January 18, the Pope wishes to underline the special ecumenical character of the Jubilee 2000. ... It was in the basilica dedicated to St. Paul, apostle of the gentiles, that John XXIII announced Vatican Council II on January 25, 1959."

The ceremony is divided into three stages with three moments of prayer, these are linked by the course of a procession that the Holy Father will follow together with representatives from more than 30 Churches and ecclesial communities.

The first stage is the "statio" under the portico of the basilica. Here St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians - which has been chosen as the theme of the prayer week for Christian Unity - will be read out. The first part will be read by John Paul II, whereafter three representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities will continue.

Then the Pope, together with two representatives from other Churches, will open the Holy Door, pushing it with their hands. After a brief prayer, the Orthodox deacon will hand the Gospel to the Pope who will raise the book, showing it to the assembly. The book will then be handed back to the deacon as the Pope enters the basilica, whereupon three representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities will step onto the threshold and receive the Gospel which they will show to the four cardinal points then enter the basilica. The entire procession will then enter the basilica and proceed towards the altar.

Finally, inside the basilica, once the procession has reached the presbytery, the Gospel will be placed on the throne. Psalm 144 will be sung, all together proclaiming the sanctity and greatness of God, followed by three readings. The first of these is from the Bible (1 Cor. 12, 4-13) while the second, from the work of the Russian priest Georgij Florovskij (1893-1973), highlights the
dynamic unity of the Church, upheld through the bond of peace. The third reading comes from the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian executed by the Nazis in 1945, and concerns the identification between the Church and the Body of Christ. "The Church," says Bonhoeffer, "is not the religious community of the adorers of Christ, it is Christ Himself who has taken shape among men."

Following the homily, the sign of peace will be exchanged. The two deacons, in Greek and in Italian, will invite those present to make a gesture of fraternal communion.

Bishop Marini indicated that with the opening of the Holy Door "we wish to recognize Christ as the single and common door of salvation through which all must pass."

"The celebration will be presided by the Holy Father and 'concelebrated' by the representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities. These representatives will participate directly at various times during the ceremony. ... At particular moments during the course of the rite, after the Holy Father, representatives from Orthodox, Pre-Chalcedonian and Reformation Churches will take part. In this way we will be able to contemplate, unfortunately, the great divisions that have taken place between Christians over the course of the centuries."